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Athletic Club Bilbao

Ground: Estadio San Mamés

Visits: 1

Date: 2nd November 2017

Match: Athletic Club - Östersund  1-0  (UEFA Europa League)

Attendance: 32 354

On Thursday morning I woke up in Santander in northern Spain. The main match on this tour is Athletic Club v Östersund in the Europa League on Thursday evening. Going to Bilbao from Santander is quite easy as it only takes around 90 minutes by bus. At 11.30 I was back in Bilbao and on my way from the bus station to my hotel I walked past the impressive Estadio San Mamés. My hotel was only a few metres from the ground (see picture below) so at least getting to and from the game would be easy. In Östersund, situated 1 000 km north of where I live in southern Sweden, there are snow and sub-zero temperatures. In Bilbao it was slightly warmer though and the mercury would reach 21-22 °C during the afternoon. The city of Bilbao has a population of 350 000 and is the largest city in the Basque Country. The main tourist attraction (apart from Estadio San Mamés!) is the Guggenheim museum. The museum was opened in 1997 and is a museum of modern and contemporary art. The architectural design of the building is eye-catching to say the least and despite not being a fan of art museums this was a must stop for me. I really tried my best and had an open mind (I visited all the exhibitions) but I can honestly say understanding art is outside my area of competence. Anyway, after visiting the museum I went by tram to the old city where I strolled around for an hour before returning to my hotel.

In 2011 Östersunds FK played in the fourth tier of Swedish football. 2016 was their first ever season in Allsvenskan, Sweden´s top division and after the Swedish cup in April of this year the club qualified for the Europa League. In the qualifying rounds they knocked out Galatasaray, Fola Esch and PAOK Saloniki which in itself is a remarkable achievement for a Swedish club. In the group stage they have seven points after three rounds and in a good position to qualify for the knock-out rounds. A game against Athletic Club at San Mamés is yet another test for the club. According to their local paper Östersund had 600 fans (in two different parts of the ground) in Bilbao tonight and that is a very good number considering the size and geographical location of the club. I was hoping for an attendance of around 35 000 for this game but in the end “only” 32 500 showed up. Estadio San Mamés was opened, with three stands, in 2013 and a year later the fourth stand was completed. The ground is very centrally located in the city and replaced the old San Mamés which was built in 1913.

As soon as play got underway the hosts had most of the possession and Östersund really had to dig in to defend their goal. Despite several good chances for the home team it was still 0-0 at half-tine though. The atmosphere inside San Mamés was ok and the home fans were desperate for the home team to score. Östersund didn´t create many chances during  the game and in the 70th minute the inevitable goal for Athletic Club was eventually scored. In the final 10 minutes or so Östersund had some possession but apart from a free-kick and a few crosses they never really challenged the Athletic Club goalkeeper. The game finished 1-0 and this group is suddenly wide open. Luhansk at home is next up for Östersund and three points in that game would guarantee progress to the kock-out rounds. Part 1 of my tour is coming to an end and tomorrow I fly to Munich to finish off the tour with two games in Bavaria.

Monument.JPG

Monument

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Fountain

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Guggenheim museum

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Guggenheim museum

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Guggenheim museum

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Dog guarding the museum

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Art

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Art

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Old city

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Cathedral

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Church

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Flags

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Estadio San Mamés

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Estadio San Mamés

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View from my hotel room

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Estadio San Mamés at night

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Östersund fans outside the ground

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Pyro

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Tribuna Este

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Tribuna Sur

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Tribuna Principal

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Players and officials entering

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Kick-off

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Tribuna Este

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Östersund fans

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Tribuna Sur

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Athletic Club fans

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View of play

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Tribuna Principal

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Goal

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After the match

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Pano

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Pano

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Pano